Reviews of my favorite books written by expatriates, journalists, and diplomats on what it's really like to live abroad

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Book Review: An Embarrassment of Mangoes by Ann Vanderhoof

Doesn't the name alone just grab you? This book is a detailed account of the two years a 40-something Canadian couple spent in the mid-90s sailing their 42-foot boat around the Caribbeans.

Don't worry if you're not a sailor -- neither was Ann when she started out. As she learns about the sailing life, so does the reader. I like this because it makes it easier for me to imagine myself in her shoes .. or rather tanned bare feet. And just when the mangoes, beaches, rum, warm sun, and Carnivals begin to make you feel a bit jealous, Ann evens things out by detailing the nitty gritty behind the glamour of sailing life, including no storage, lack of water, extra household cleaning chores, and horribly tiny, ship-to-shore dingies.

Ann's a total foodie, buying fresh local provisions at the native markets, visiting local rum factories, befriending local fisherman for the fresh catch and constantly concocting new recipes. Definitely read this book with a snack at your side -- you'll get hungry. Luckily, Ann includes about a dozen of her best Caribbean recipes including one for a genuine rum punch.

As she notes, many couples in the 'cruising culture' spend their time socializing with other North American cruisers and just see the islands as ports for restocking gas and groceries. Ann and her husband were the exception to that rule. They actively sought out local culture and friendships on several of the islands, especially Grenada. So, although this book is more about the sailing life than it is about living on a particular island, you definitely do get some insights into native Caribbean culture.

You'll like this book if:

-You've dreamed of sailing away....

- You'd love to attend native Carnival celebrations on a Caribbean island and dance (and drink) all night and all day.

- You're planning a boat trip down the Intracoastal Highway from the Chesapeake to Miami and you want to know what it's like beforehand.

- You're a foodie.

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